Monday, April 15, 2024

Noose for a Lady - Gerald Verner

The murder has already taken place when this British mystery originally published in 1952 opens. Wealthy John Hallam has been poisoned, and his wife Margaret has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang for the crime. Her childhood friend, portrait painter/amateur sleuth Simon Gale, returns to England and discovers Margaret's plight when there's only a week left before the execution. Believing his old friend incapable of murder by poisoning, Gale sets out to uncover the actual murderer with the help of his younger brother and Margaret's stepdaughter. A local police detective who's not an idiot, for a change, also lends a hand.

NOOSE FOR A LADY is a top-notch British village mystery yarn with plenty of suspects (the victim was a cad and a bounder and half the people in the village had good reason to want him dead), a dogged detective, sinister lurkers, a second murder, and finally a gathering of the suspects where Simon Gale explains everything and reveals the killer's identity. It's suspenseful, well-plotted, and written in a fast, breezy style that's very entertaining to read. Simon Gale is a good protagonist with a hearty attitude and a fondness for beer and his pipe. There are two more novels about him, and I think there's a good chance I'll read them.

Gerald Verner, who was born John Robert Stuart Pringle, was a prolific author of mysteries and thrillers who wrote quite a few Sexton Blake yarns under the name Donald Stuart. I read one of them not long ago and enjoyed it a great deal, so I sought out something else by him. NOOSE FOR A LADY is considered one of his best novels, so I started there. It was based on a 1950 radio serial Verner wrote for the BBC. The novel is available from Amazon in e-book and paperback editions, and if you're a fan of British mysteries and Golden Age detection, I think it's well worth reading.

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